The Rolling Stones – Some Girls

Some Girls (1978)


1. Miss You 2. When The Whip Comes Down 3. Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me) 4. Some Girls 5. Lies 6. Far Away Eyes 7. Respectable 8. Before They Make Me Run 9. Beast Of Burden 10. Shattered


Proving once again that they are roughly one billion times better than every band ever, the 16-year veteran Rolling Stones convened in Paris in 1977 to make their “back to the roots,” punk rock influenced album. And unlike the result that nearly any other aging band would shit out when beset with this goal, said album did not totally suck. At all. In fact, it turned out to be one of the greatest albums of the Stones’ long—really long—illustrious career. And, on the back of three big hit singles, Some Girls also turned out to be their best selling album of all time, interestingly enough, and opened up the Stones to a whole new fanbase of punk rockers, discoheads and future yuppies who would soon be snorting coke and jerking off with latex gloves to posters of Ronald Reagan. So you win some, you lose some. But Some Girls remains one of the most energetic and resilient records of the band’s career. The Big Four are the classics, of course, but they sound inescapably like products of ’68-’72 era – the time when rock was king. They defined that era, in fact. But Some Girls, though also baring unmistakable trademarks of its time and place of origin—New York City in the late 70s, where Mick was living at the time—it sounds as hip and fresh today as it surely did then.

See, with this album, the Stones became a “big tent” band, to use one of those stupid political buzzwords that make me want to puke. Mick wanted—needed—to stay hip, and by the time the band hit the studio to record the album, punk rock had swelled to a game-changing crest that was swallowing up the relevancy of all the bloated dinosaurs of the 60s and 70s that stood in its path. All the old fogies that survived were forced to absorb some measure of the punk rock ethos, which ultimately, for them, amounted to no more than getting “stripped down” and “back to basics” – plus, maybe, wiggling into a pair of ripped jeans and an oversized t-shirt or two. The Stones were no exception, and it wasn’t much of a stretch for them anyway, since without the Stones, there would be no punk rock (the same can be said about virtually every subgenre of rock ‘n roll of course, but why not bother to point it out). But in spite of all the inspiration from the punks, well, Mick still loved to go to dance clubs. I mean, he spent half of this entire era snorting coke with David Bowie in the bathroom of Studio 54. So how to handle the influence of these opposite poles of the late 70s NYC music scene? Do ‘em both! The punks hated disco, and disco people hated the punks, but Some Girls manages to bring them all together in the form of “Miss You,” the Stones last number 1 hit. It’s not really disco—take away Charlie’s four on the floor beat and Bill’s propulsive bassline and it’s just another sexy Stones blues. There’s even an old-fashioned blues harp on it – played by Sugar Blue, a guy Mick found busking on the subway. But that’s precisely the point – who had ever put the disco beat to such imaginative use before? No one, that’s who! The other song that might’ve scared off the punks is “Far Away Eyes,” a tongue in cheek “tribute” to Bakersfield country with yokel harmonies as sweet as you’ll ever hear contrasting brilliantly with lyrics as funny as a Spinal Tap song. Thank you Jesus, thank you Lord.

Besides those two, the Stones’ motto during the recording of the album shines through: “more fast numbers.” Hard, fast, rough, raw. Mick is playing a bunch of guitar, and Mick Taylor is long gone, so what you get here instead of Keith playing a “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”-like riff and someone twiddling about over top of it is Jagger rudimentarily bashing out two or three chords—usually some basic combination of A, D and E—and Keith and Ronnie frenetically trading licks back and forth like they’ve got rabid hyenas trying to run them down. Taylor fans love to snidely point out how lame the solos are compared to something that little blonde kid might’ve torn off five years before, but that’s stupid. You can hardly tell when the solos are supposed to start and when they end anyway. The guitar attack is no longer about solos, or even riffs, but interplay. So now we just get these raging walls of ragged, furiously grinding guitars on stuff like “When The Whip Comes Down” or “Respectable” or the garage rock cover of the Temptations’ “Just My Imagination.” And the synergy is just as strong when they decide to take a breath and slow it down at the end – a moment you may know as the soulful hit ballad “Beast Of Burden.” There are a ridiculous amount of catchy licks flying all over the place, almost too many to be contained – I think my favorite 30 seconds of the record is the guitar solo of “Shattered.” In just that teeny time frame, what seem to be about 35 guitar overdubs swarm into the mix – some squealing away, some just adding a bit of coloring in the background. And just as soon as Mick comes back in, they all disappear. The more guitars, the merrier, I say. Sure, a lot of this guitar playing could’ve just as easily come out the garage of some jobless, long-haired 38-year old dude in a Clash t-shirt as they could have from the biggest rock ‘n roll band in the world. Make of that what you will, but I find it very appealing.

Due to his obligations with the Canadian criminal justice system at the time, Keith didn’t have a whole lot to do with the writing of this album aside from “Beast Of Burden” and his lead vocal turn on the cheery rocker “Before They Make Me Run” (which makes up for any lack of input elsewhere by amounting to a collection of one classic Keithian one-liner after another. If you don’t have the stomach for all the many of hundreds of pages of dear Keef’s autobiography—car crashes, detailed drug experiences, cooking recipes and all—then just listen to this song. You’ll get the gist). So this is Mick’s album – and boy, does he sell the thing. It starts with his newest voice – a hoarse, punk-inspired growl that fits the material perfectly. His affectations here are no less clownish or note-imperfect than they were on Love You Live, but they’re a hell of a lot grittier and surprisingly versatile. He can play a loneliness-crazed playboy on “Miss You” and then turn around and play a street-hardened gay whore on “When The Whip Comes Down.” As far as best performance goes, take your pick – his playfully irreverent New York-ization of “Just My Imagination;” his pseudo-rap scatting on “Shattered;” his suave, soul papa testifying on “Beast Of Burden.” I think I’ll take him at his campy, sleezy best on the title track, which caused some controversy at the time for being demeaning to women. Um, had anyone actually been paying attention to any of Mick’s lyrics since 1965? Though, to be fair, I don’t recall “Satisfaction” featuring lines like “black girls just wanna get fucked all night/I just don’t have that much jam.” Point to you, political correctness police.

So, it’s another day, another classic, career-defining Stones album. Yeah, it turned out to be last time we were blessed with such a gift. And just because it was born from the influence of the Stones’ own disciples doesn’t diminish the accomplishment one bit. Some Girls is one hell of an example of showing the kids how it’s done.

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